True Cost Reduction Doesn’t Increase Risk

While reading a recent article over on the Inbound Logistics site on Serving up the Perfect Meal, I came across the following quote from a general manager for C.H. Robinson that worried me:

One thing all restaurants are doing is managing labor farther up the supply chain, and pushing inventory levels back to suppliers to manage, thereby controlling costs, keeping inventory fresh, and allowing menu planning variability.

Can you see why? While managing labour considerations further up the supply chain is a great idea, as it forces you to have good supply chain visibility, and keeping inventory fresh will give you an edge in the food service industry, pushing inventory levels back to suppliers to manage is a disaster waiting to happen unless:

  • they are at least as competent as you in inventory management,
  • they have deep insight into your expected demand requirements over time (at least six months into the future), and
  • they have a basic understanding of the market volatility and the ability to handle unplanned demand surges.

If any one of these assumptions are false, at some point in time, your supplier is going to be out of inventory when you need it most, and you’re either going to have to spot-buy elsewhere, at considerably higher prices, or, even worse, go out of stock and have to slash profitable menu items for the duration of the shortage.

You should only let your supplier manage your inventory if you have deep visibility into the supply chain and collaborate with them to make sure they have all of the data they need to predict your needs as well as you can. And you need this visibility, given that quality, safety, and traceability are critical to a food service provider’s supply chain, especially given the recent introduction of the Food Safety Modernization Act.